What is Modernism?

Modernism refers not to a specific style but an international idea. Dating from and reflective of the post-World War I period, Modern architecture uses mass-produced materials and scientific and engineering innovations in an effort to improve living and working conditions by providing fresh air and light in efficient affordable designs. Modernism values honesty of structure and purpose expressed through simplicity of form, direct use of materials, open floor plan, large glass windows which foster connection between interior and exterior and design specific to site.

Lincoln Modernism:

Modernism has a long and distinguished history in Lincoln. The Town became an important incubator for modern residential design beginning in the late 1930s. The first Modern residence in Town was completed in 1937. During the 1940s and especially post-World War II, Lincoln grew rapidly. The Town’s proximity to Cambridge and Boston, and the educational and cultural opportunities those cities offered, attracted a population drawn to and interested in participating in Modern ideas and ideals. Many architects were attracted to Lincoln and found residential commissions. Some architects also joined with local residents to work with innovative town planning including the development of several Modern neighborhoods. Woods End Road, the Town’s first Modern neighborhood, became part of the Town’s Historic District in 1981. Other Modern neighborhoods dating from the 1940s to 1960s include Old Concord Road, Brown’s Wood, Twin Pond Lane, Tabor Hill, Woodcock Lane, Rockwood Lane, Stonehedge Road, and Hiddenwood Path, and portions of Beaver Pond Road. 

Although other towns possess important Modern houses or neighborhoods, Lincoln has an inventory of considerable breadth and influence. From 1937 to 1970, over 300 Modern residences as well as civic, cultural, and commercial buildings were constructed in Lincoln. This collection of Modern houses uniquely includes fourteen pre-World War II houses, some of which were designed by architects for their families. Following World War II, academics and professionals moving into Town as well as local residents commissioned Modern houses, and, as before, architects also designed for their own families. The local and nationally- and internationally-recognized architects practicing in Lincoln include: J. Quincy Adams, Lawrence Anderson, Walter Bogner, Marcel Breuer, Earl Flansburgh, Ronald Gourley, Walter Gropius, Henry Hoover, Carl Koch, Walter Gropius, Thomas McNulty, Cyrus Murphy, G. Holmes Perkins, Walter Pierce, Constantin Pertzoff, Frances Quarton, Lucy Rapperport, Ralph Rapson, Mary Otis Stevens, and Hugh Stubbins. Through their academic work and teaching, architectural firms, publications and extent of commissions, their influence frequently extended well beyond Lincoln. Indeed, the Gropius House of 1938, owned by Historic New England and preserved as a house museum, on the National Register of Historic Places, and designated a National Historic Landmark, attracts thousands of visitors annually from all over the world. Although it is the best-known example of Modernism in Lincoln, the Gropius House joins numerous others to form the largest concentration of Modern residential architecture in a Massachusetts town.